Less than a month after a deadlocked Iowa Supreme Court struck down a six-week abortion ban, lawmakers were sent back to Capitol Tuesday morning to consider an almost identical set of restrictions on the procedure.
With large Republican majorities in both legislative houses and a Republican governor decrying « the inhumanity of abortion, » the new restrictions seemed highly likely to pass.
« I believe the pro-life movement is the most important human rights cause of our time, » Gov. Kim Reynolds said when she convened the special session on abortion last week. He also lamented the court’s deadlock, saying « the lack of action ignores the will of Iowa voters and lawmakers who will not rest until the unborn are protected by law. »
The session was expected to further cement Iowa’s sharp political shift to the right and end its increasingly rare status as a Republican-led state where abortions are permitted up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy. The new limits would add Iowa to a list of conservative states, which includes Indiana, North Dakota and South Carolina, that have passed abortion restrictions since the US Supreme Court ended the nation’s right to abortion last year. year.
The call for a special session infuriated but came as no surprise to Iowa Democrats, who celebrated the court deadlock a few weeks ago but knew Republicans were likely to try again. The Iowa Supreme Court deadlock left in place a lower court injunction blocking enforcement of a six-week ban, but also left the broader question of whether such restrictions are permissible under of the state constitution. Supporters of abortion rights have said that the new limits being considered by lawmakers endanger women’s health and go against public opinion.
« We knew this was going to happen, » Senator Pam Jochum, the Democratic minority leader, said in a statement, adding that Republicans « were rushing to take away the established rights and personal freedoms of Iowans » and that « they hope they can Do ». fast enough that Iowans won’t even notice.
The new bill introduced by Republicans allows for abortions up to about six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. The bill includes exceptions after that point in situations involving rape or incest, in circumstances where the woman’s life is in grave danger or at risk of some permanent injury, or when « incompatible with life » fetal abnormalities are present.
Such abortion restrictions in Iowa would further erode access to the procedure in the Midwest, where it is already limited. But a new law would almost certainly face a new legal challenge and the outcome in the courts would again be uncertain.
Abortion is banned in almost all cases in the neighboring states of Missouri, South Dakota and Wisconsin, and a new 12-week ban recently passed in Nebraska. Illinois and Minnesota, which are led by Democrats, have lax abortion laws and could become destinations for Iowa women seeking an abortion. More than 3,700 abortions were performed in Iowa in 2021, according to state data, most of them with medication.
A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll this year found that 61 percent of adults in the state believed abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 35 percent believed it should be illegal in most or all cases.
But last year, as Democrats rallied nationwide for abortion rights, regaining state legislative houses and holding governorships, the party failed in Iowa, which not long ago was seen as a state in which voters could switch to either party. Governor Reynolds won re-election in a landslide, Republicans swept the state’s congressional seats, and voters ousted the attorney general and treasurer, both Democrats who had remained in office for decades.
Although Iowans voted for Barack Obama twice and Democrats held a majority in the state senate until 2016, the state is now firmly Republican. Only one Democrat, auditor Rob Sand, still holds office statewide, and the national Democratic Party has moved to push the coveted former caucuses in the Iowa nation further along the nomination calendar.
Republicans, for their part, wasted no time remaking Iowa with a more conservative image. Mrs. Reynolds signed laws this year that Hormone therapy prohibited for transgender children, loosened child labor laws AND limited Mr. Sand’s powers. And with Republicans keeping Iowa at the top of their nomination calendar, presidential hopefuls have flooded the state.
State Representative Jennifer Konfrst, Iowa House Democratic Minority Leader, said the state is not as conservative as recent election results have suggested. While Democrats are unlikely to regain a legislative chamber next year, she said she saw an opportunity to expand the number of their states in 2024 and regain a foothold in congressional delegation. New limits on abortion, she said, would have the potential to mobilize Democratic voters who missed the last election.
« Our best case will be holding Republicans accountable for going against what Iowans want, » said Ms. Konfrst, who represents parts of suburban Des Moines. « The fact that they are rushing it in July, a year before the election, shows that politically they know this is unpopular. »
But Iowa Republicans made no effort to hide their support for abortion restrictions and still went on to win elections. Matt Windschitl, the House Majority Leader, said, « Iowans elected us with a promise to defend the unborn and we will continue to deliver on that promise. »
The same poll that showed broad support for abortion rights this year also showed that more Iowans approved than disapproved of the way the state legislature was doing its job. And nearly two-thirds of respondents disapproved of President Biden’s job performance.